(Diocese of Southwark’s “Noticeboard”, November 2013)
November is a month of Remembrance. With continuing casualties from conflicts around the world, Remembrance Sunday remains a vital part of the annual calendar when we focus together on the appalling cost of war and violence. We rightly remember those who have given so much. But a deep Remembrance, which properly honours such sacrifice, demands more of us – it is also a call to action to play our part in shaping our world.
An important aspect of Remembrance is to reflect on the perceived purpose and moral context of any given conflict. During the Second World War a Times leader commented on the moral and religious fabric of Britain,
‘It will be of little use to fight, as we are fighting today, for the preservation of Christian principles if Christianity itself is to have no future, or at immense cost to safeguard religion against attack from without if we allow it to be starved by neglect from within . . .’
This raises the key question of what kind of a society is worth fighting for, and the place of religion and Christian faith in shaping that society. How can our Churches contribute to formation of a healthy society? There are at least three vital elements in what we do.
The first is our worship and prayer. This gives the whole framework in which we understand our lives. Worship shapes us as we engage in Word and Sacrament. November begins with All Saints’ Day, amongst other things a call to be inspired by the examples of holy women and men. In All Souls’ Day we have a reminder of our mortality and the need to see all that happens in the light of eternity, judgement, salvation and resurrection hope. Towards the end of the month we celebrate Christ the King leading into the season of Advent with the emphasis on God’s coming and action in our midst. These are rich themes which can really shape how we live today.
The second contribution is evangelism – the call to proclaim the Good News of God’s Love in Christ. In our context many people, especially young people, are disconnected from the life of the Church and have little concern for or interest in Christian faith. Our task is to make those connections in every way we can – to tell the story of salvation, openly and engagingly.
The third contribution of our Churches to the common good is via practical action – the expression of God’s love day by day in our lives. A recent Theos report has emphasised the importance of orthopraxy – right doing. In a world of such variety we need to learn to live and work with others in everyday ‘side by side’ activity. Foodbanks and credit unions are good examples, as is campaigning for justice in the midst of complex conflicts, and also caring for the victims of those situations. As Christians who are called to love our neighbours we cannot stand idly by.
Remembrance is not simply a recollection of past events – it is also a powerful call to action today to live and proclaim God’s Kingdom.